Following China’s economic development, the Chinese population has benefited from increasing disposable incomes and a stronger purchasing power. With China being the most populous country in the world, it is normal for foreign brands to target the Chinese market. Moreover, it is a wonderful opportunity for brands selling vitamins and dietary supplements (VDS) as Chinese consumers are very concerned about health issues and want to protect their immune systems. In 2015, they spent over CNY109 billion (US$16.3 billion) on vitamins and dietary supplements, with an 8% increase over 2016. With its 400 million “middle class” people (as of 2020), China is the largest VDS market in the world.
The Vitamins & Health Supplements Market in China
While domestic brands are most of the time competing via localized advertisements, using low-price leaderships, foreign brands are still benefiting from their reputation in terms of quality, luxury, brand awareness, as well as prestige.
Why do Chinese consumers purchase health supplements?
In China, having healthy living has become a priority for most of the Chinese population, and especially for millennials. In fact, the Chinese culture has for a long time emphasized the importance of a balanced lifestyle. Thanks to their increasing purchasing power, Chinese people are also more inclined to spend more on vitamins and health supplements.
By 2020, the market of vitamin and dietary supplements in China has reached CNY149 billion (US$22.3 billion), with a CAGR of 6.4% in the 2015-2020 period. This is why it has created a huge opportunity for health supplements’ brands and international brands to use their reputation, quality, and branding to target and attract consumers.
According to a survey conducted by Rakuten Insight in July 2020, around 77% of respondents living in Mainland China said they took dietary supplements to improve and strengthen their immune system. Only 7% of them took supplements for weight loss.
Before entering the Chinese market, you have to know that China has some characteristics that make it easier for brands to sell their vitamins and health supplements:
- China’s economic growth: as mentioned earlier, the Chinese population has seen an increase in incomes and purchasing power. Many people were able to be part of the Chinese middle class and benefit from the influence of Western culture, especially in the first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, but also in emerging cities such as Hangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, etc.
- An aging society: the Chinese society has suffered for a couple of years from the one-child policy, abolished in 2015. Thus, the Chinese population is older than ever and needs vitamin and health supplements.
- Domestic brands scandals in China: Following several issues from domestic brands, Chinese consumers are more skeptical and thus relying on foreign brands when it comes to health supplements, cosmetics, food, and skincare products.
- The ubiquity of e-commerce platforms: As a result of China’s rapid digitalization, e-commerce platforms were able to grasp more than 710 million users. The key leaders of e-commerce are of course Tmall, JD.com, and Taobao, but other players were also able to stand out in the e-commerce industry such as Xiaohongshu, Pinduoduo, Kaola, etc. On top of the wide range of products available on these e-commerce platforms, people are also benefiting from a quick delivery within the same, which makes it easier and more attractive for foreign brands to sell their health supplements online.
What drives the market of health supplements?
Thanks to rising awareness among Chinese consumers in terms of health and sanitary issues, the size of the vitamin and health supplements market has shown an upward trend. For example, the most popular items in terms of vitamin supplements are vitamins C, E, and A.
It is also important to take into account that the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in an incredible increase in demands for vitamins and health supplements, boosting vitamins and health supplements sales. Chinese people are now more interested in immune system strength complements and body health products. Following this phenomenon, brands should seize the opportunity to expand their activities in China and surf on the trend of health supplements in the long term.
Who is the target audience?
Before selling your vitamins, dietary, and health supplements in China, you have to understand the Chinese market. It is important to take into account that most of your potential clients are going to be millennials, and particularly the post-90s generation. Women are also more interested in these kinds of products (57%), compared to men.
According to Baidu’s Index, the age of people looking for ‘vitamins’ on the search engine were aged between 20-29 years old. They are mainly looking for health-related products such as vitamins and health supplements, nutrient-dense fruits, and traditional Chinese medicine.
Key regions to sell you health supplements in China
Even though it might seem surprising, the biggest health foods end-product importer in China was the province of Guangdong (25,8% of all the health food imports, which amounted to US$773 million), while Tianjian was the fastest growing in terms of imports.
Shanghai and Zhejiang took respectively the 3rd and 2nd spot, importing health supplements worth US$629 million and US$739 million.
However, don’t focus only on these provinces, because thanks to e-commerce platforms, you don’t need to worry about selling your products and delivering them to consumers all across China.
How to market your vitamins and health supplements in China?
Comply with Chinese regulations
As in any country around the world, you will need to comply with the country’s regulations. As a matter of fact, if you want to sell your vitamins and health supplements in China, you will need to complete and apply for labeling requirements. Don’t forget that you will need to translate everything into Chinese and send it to the seller’s platforms or warehouse before shipment.
What do you need to fulfill Chinese consumers’ demands?
It is important to know that when looking for health supplements and vitamins, Chinese consumers will first focus on the brand. That’s why brand awareness is extremely important in China as well as having an online presence of Chinese websites and social media (but we’ll come back to it later in this article).
Then, they will also focus on the functionality and effects of your products, that’s why writing a clear and understandable description is key when targeting Chinese consumers. Don’t forget that you will have also to emphasize the quality of your product (Chinese consumers tend to have more confidence about buying foreign products than Chinese ones). In order to know if your product is attractive, they will mostly rely on word-of-mouth (feedbacks from other consumers, social media, etc.).
Last but not least, they will look at the product’s price range, comparing it to other similar brands. That’s why before exporting your products in China, you should search for information from your competitors and adapt your price range if needed.
Tailoring Healthcare & Supplements Brands to the Chinese Market
Content needs to be localized & relatable
Tailoring your brand to the Chinese market is the key to success in China as Chinese consumers are more demanding in terms of reputation and quality of products. For example, you can see here that Blackmores’ tailored its advertising, featuring a Chinese model to promote their products. You have to work with local ambassadors and celebrities, or KOLs. This Chinese Model is ‘Ling Feui’ a popular sports influencer in Mainland.
A specific range of Healthcare Products to Meet the Chinese Market Demand
VDS companies are further segmenting their products to meet the growing specific demands of their Chinese consumers. Not only are they segmenting by conditions such as memory, immunity, or pregnancy health, but they are also adjusting their ingredients and branding to merge with the Chinese market. That’s why it is important for you to take these parameters into account.
How to sell your vitamins and health supplements in China?
Selling products in China is as difficult as it might seem. However, it is important to know the Chinese market beforehand, as well as the best methods to sell your vitamins and health supplements in China.
E-Commerce in China for Healthcare & Supplements is the way to go
Product registration and licensing for Health Sector Products is an extremely lengthy process, even if applications are successfully managed, it can take up to 3 years to complete the process and there is no guarantee of approval. In fact, China has a strict system and regulations when it comes to health-related products.
If you cannot afford e-commerce platforms, or if you don’t want to, you can sell straight away without a license but you will need approval from the relevant cross-border platform. With China’s huge online population of over 938 million netizens (as of 2021) and 710 million e-shoppers, e-commerce platforms are in general the best way to sell products in China.
Tmall: A Powerful E-Commerce Platform for Health Supplements brands in China
Founded in 2008 under the famous Alibaba group, Tmall (天猫), is a subsidiary of the e-commerce website Taobao (淘宝网). Its target market is primarily B2C (Business-To-Consumer). Tmall’s concept is ambitious and wise as it allows both local Chinese and international companies to sell their products through the platform in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Tmall stands out from its competitor’s thanks to its strict standards in terms of quality and renown.
With Tmall being one of the largest and most reputable cross-border e-commerce platforms in China, it benefits from a quality and authenticity reputation among Chinese consumers.
A Tmall.com storefront is essential to the China retail strategy of leading global businesses and the most effective avenue for market penetration.
There are two ways to join Tmall’s platform:
- Companies with China in-country business operations can apply to Tmall.com.
- Companies with overseas licenses are eligible for Tmall Global.
As an open platform marketplace, Tmall.com provides the infrastructure to host your storefront and unfiltered access to a wide audience of consumers. Operating a Tmall.com storefront is much like operating your own B2C website, offering autonomy from design to operations to fulfillment and logistics.
Official Authorization to Sell Health Supplements via Tmall
If you want to sell on Tmall, you will need an Official Authorization from the brand to sell on Tmall.cn & Tmall.hk. This Authenticity is very important in China because the domestic market was often associated with counterfeits and poor quality local goods.
The Authorisation Certificate Included on Tmall’s Website
The buyers on Tmall need to verify that this store & product are genuine, this is why selling on this platform is more effective, with higher conversion rates.
Read our Tmall Guide
Founded in 1998 by Liu Qiangdong in Beijing, JD (which stands for Jingdong 京东) was at the beginning only a magneto-optical store, which diversified over the years with electronics, computers, mobile phones, etc. In 2004, it opened its online retail platform and quickly became one of the two massive B2C online retailers in China with its competitor the Alibaba-run Tmall. Now, JD.com is partly owned by the giant Tencent, which has 20% of its stake. As of 2021, JD.com has over 470 million active customers.
ITL Health – JD Gloabl store
In 2019, the total net revenues of the online shopping company JD.com amounted to 576.9 billion yuan. JD.com runs one of the biggest online marketplaces in China, other platforms being Tmall, Pinduoduo, and Suning. Thus, if you want to sell your health supplements in China, you can apply for the e-commerce platform JD.com and become a seller.
You can read our full article about JD.com
Launched in 2003 by the Chinese giant Alibaba, Taobao (淘宝网) is one of the most popular online shopping platforms, specialized in both B2C and C2C transactions, as well as the most popular online entrepreneurship platform, enabling thousands of young entrepreneurs to be successful. It has hundreds of millions of products and service listings, which are really appreciated by Chinese consumers. As of 2019, it has 300 million daily active users and 668 million mobile monthly active users. Taobao accounts for nearly 60% of the total e-commerce sales in China.
On the contrary to Tmall and JD.com, it is easier to be on Taobao as regulations are not as strict. However, be careful to read all the clauses about selling health supplements in China before applying.
You can also read our full guide Selling on Taobao for beginners
You need an online presence to be successful in China
With foreign companies struggling to communicate directly with their consumers and accommodate the Chinese culture, brands have to adapt to Chinese trends in order to stand out amongst their competitors. As a matter of fact, Chinese millennial consumers are more digitally active online, and savvier than before compared to Western millennials. Thus, they are the main e-commerce platform customers. Knowing this, it is undeniable that you have to do everything you can to attract them and target them.
Having a Chinese Website is Key
If you want potential clients to hear about you and discover your brand, you need to have a website in Chinese Mandarin, hosted in China (for SEO reasons). Take into account that Baidu (the leading search engine in China), will not rank websites hosted in other countries or websites in other languages than Chinese. This is why it is considered mandatory to have a Chinese website in order to attract Chinese consumers. Moreover, it is even more important as consumers will be looking at the specificities and explanations about your products. Don’t forget to write a detailed description of your health supplements and about your brand.
Swisse Chinese Website
In addition, your website must follow Chinese standards and Chinese trends. In most cases, with a homepage that has a lot of information. If Western consumers tend to prefer a clean aesthetic, it is not the case for Chinese consumers that are accustomed to colorful and animated websites.
The importance of Baidu SEO for vitamins and health supplements in China
Baidu’s biggest attribute and main selling feature are that they only index simplified Chinese characters. This is why it is important for you to have a website available in simplified Chinese. In fact, Baidu prefers 100% Chinese-written websites and has difficulty distinguishing several languages. So, if we want to appear in priority and increase its visibility, we recommend a Chinese homepage. Besides, to improve its trust rank, it is recommended to have a “.cn” website.
As 75% of the research in China are on Baidu, you need to have a good ranking on Baidu to be visible and sell your vitamins and health supplements to Chinese consumers.
Case Study – Vitamins’ Brand ‘Blackmores’ Achieve Huge Success in China
In 2016, the Australian vitamins and health product supplier ‘Blackmores’ has more than doubled the full-year profit to $100 million after increasing direct sales to China.
Blackmore’s Homepage on Tmall
In-country sales to China rose from $7.55 million in 2015/16 to $48 million in the 12 months to June 30, but Blackmores estimates that more than $200 million of its total $717 million revenue came from Chinese consumers as tourists and visitors took products home.
Contact us to sell your vitamins and health supplements in China
Having a clear market development strategy and roadmap is essential if you want to conquer the Chinese market. At Gentlemen Marketing Agency, we have experts in various fields that can help you strive for your success among Chinese consumers. Experts can help you market your health supplements’ brand in China as well as increase your online presence
Our Health & Supplements/Vitamins Case Studies
Vitamins and health supplements are a lucrative market full of opportunities for foreign brands. If you understand how the Chinese market works, you will quickly increase your sales. Working with a local agency as Gentlemen Marketing Agency can help you to avoid the traps of the Chinese market which are numerous. Our agency works with western brands since 2012 and knows everything about the Chinese market.
Our focus is to promote your business with your target closely in mind. After all of these explanations, you understand that the key to selling online is to have a good image and to be reputable. We’ll use digital tools including Baidu SEO and SEM, E-PR, Media Buying (DSP) & Community Management. Then, we’ll manage the campaign and assure its optimization & success.
We are experienced in Baidu
- High knowledge of Baidu’s functions
- An ROI-focused agency
- We are cost-effective
- We have worked with more than 300 western brands
Lead Generation Professionals
We are professionals in lead generation. To be effective in your lead generation, you need first to develop a good e-reputation. Invest in online advertising and create quality content will help you develop your e-reputation. Finally, measured results to improve your performance.
Experts in the Chinese Market
Since 2012, we have worked with foreign companies that wanted to expand their activities in China. We understand the expectations of the Chinese and we know their habits and expectations when they want to buy imported spirits. Understanding this specific consumer is the key to success.
You are still wondering how to market your health supplements’ brand in China? Do not hesitate to contact us and we will reply within 24 hours.
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